Guesswork based on very little information can be fun… It can also lead you down totally erroneous pathways, but if you don’t have the information, how do you know?
So, I have the information now and travelling the right path is going to be so much more rewarding than anything mere guesswork can provide – for me and everyone else. There’s still a little of that, mind you…
So, I’ve talked a little bit about Maud and Thomas’s marriage (and here) and about Gervase Clyfton before. Not quite totally wrong, but close enough. There are times when being wrong can be bitter and close to unbearable. This is not one of those times. I’ve linked both those posts to this one, coz this one is definitive! Um, well… As close to it as I can get, and that’s a good deal closer than I was at the start of all this.
Near the end of my Gervase Clyfton post, I suggested three possible reasons why Maud married him. I can now say, with very little uncertainty, that it was reason #1. She loved him.
Pretty much the whole of this post is based on two articles by Dr Rhoda Friedrichs: The Remarriage of Elite Widows in the Later Middle Ages and Rich Old Ladies Made Poor: The vulnerability of women’s property in late medieval England. The first one I stumbled upon, the second I knew about but couldn’t access. I got in touch with Dr Friedrichs, who very kindly sent me a copy. In the meantime, the Article Fairy blessed me once more and I now have a two copies! (Thanks, Susan!) As with many much anticipated events, the arrival of the article was tinged with a little ‘what if I’ve set so much store by this and it’s not what I hoped for?’. But it was… and more! So, from those two articles, some bits and pieces from the Patent Rolls of Henry VI and Edward IV, as well as Edward IV’s Close Rolls, and some flavour courtesy of Richard Roos, I present to you:
Marriage & the Nevills: Robert, Thomas, Gervase and Maud – the director’s cut
Maud Stanhope’s life was turbulent and tumultuous to say the least. It didn’t begin that way, though. The oldest of three children born to Richard Stanhope and Maud Cromwell, she was probably destined to marry into comfortable and safe Nottingham gentry. Her father had children from a previous marriage, and her full brother Henry was set to inherit both their mother’s property and that of their uncle, Ralph Lord Cromwell. (Cromwell was a large figure in Maud’s life, both during his lifetime and after his death.) Apart from her brother, Maud had a sister Jane, who was two years younger than her. At the time of Maud’s first marriage, neither she nor Jane had much to recommend them as brides of noblemen – they preferred wives who could bring them wealth or, particularly for younger sons, titles. Maud had neither.
Before, and for some time during, her first marriage, Maud held a position in the household of the duchess of Gloucester. Here she met, among others, Gervase Clyfton (Gloucester’s treasurer) and William Nevill lord Fauconberg. What her relationship with the former might have been isn’t known, but she seems to have carried on a ‘courtly’ love affair with Fauconberg before being replaced in his affections by Barbelina Herberquyne, a member of Margaret of Anjou’s household. In Roos’s poetry, Maud is consistently associated with Mercury’s gift of eloquence and a fondness for argument. It would seem that she was a woman of some intelligence and not a little learning. In later life, her willingness to argue her case deserted her only once. After the downfall of first the duchess of Gloucester and later the duke, Maud left court to live with her husband in Lincolnshire.
Around 1448, Uncle Cromwell found Maud a husband. He was a widower of mature years with a grown up daughter of his own. On her marriage to him, Maud would gain herself a title – Lady Willougbby – but little by way of wealth. Robert Willoughby was not a rich man. He owed Cromwell money and wasn’t in a position to pay up. So the two men struck up a deal. Cromwell’s niece, Maud, would marry Lord Willoughby, with the debt written off against her dowry. Maud gave her consent to this, but whether she was happy in her marriage, we don’t know. It would seem that there was some resentment from her step-daughter Joan, then married to Robert Lord Welles. Joan no doubt feared that her father’s new bride, who was just a year older than her, would do something stupid like have a son, thus depriving Joan of an inheritance she’d have been counting on for most of her life. She needn’t have worried – the Willoughbys had no children.
When Robert died in July 1452, Joan Welles and her husband immediately took steps to secure her late father’s property, including Maud’s dower. Maud was forced to flee Eresby for the sanctuary of her uncle’s castle at Tattershall. Though her mother was still alive, and living at Tuxford in Nottinghamshire, Maud didn’t seek shelter with her. Maybe there was more room at Tattershall for Maud and her household.
By this time, Henry Stanhope had died, leaving Maud and Joan as Cromwell’s joint heirs. As the expected practice was for a rich man to leave one third of his property to his wife, one third to his heirs and one third for the salvation of his soul, and as Cromwell was a very rich man indeed, suddenly Maud became a much more attractive marriage prospect. She should have had both social and financial independence, and the right to choose who (or whether) to remarry. In reality, she was in need of a protector, someone who could secure and safeguard her current and potential property. Like, say, young Richard Nevill had done when his wife came into her sudden and unexpected inheritance. The Nevills were good people for Cromwell to turn to, and not only for Maud’s sake. Cromwell had troubles of his own and was in need of powerful support. Allying himself to the Nevills, and giving Maud into the hands of an energetic young man like Thomas, the earl of Salisbury’s second son, might just be the answer to both their problems. In May 1453, the marriage contract was sealed. In August, the wedding took place at Tattershall castle.
In December 1454, Maud’s mother died. In Lady Stanhope’s Inquisition Post Mortem, Maud is said to be 30. I had been working on the premise that she and Thomas were the same age, but she was some 5 years older than him. Clearly, this age difference bothered neither of them, as both were quick to consent to the match. For Maud, it offered a way out of what must have been a most embarrassing poverty and an imposition on her uncle and aunt. That it was an imposition is borne out by the fact that Cromwell billed her for her household’s expenses during her months at Tattershall. Maud hadn’t been expecting this and it’s likely it distressed her on two counts: she didn’t have any money, and he was the one she’d turned to in her time of need – family are supposed to cheerfully help out under such circumstances. (Judge Judy, I’m sure, would have made mincemeat of Uncle Ralph – one suspects that he would have got an iconic “You’re an idiot!” or two.)
A poem in the Devonshire ms, often attributed to Thomas Wyatt, may have been written by Richard Roos for Thomas Nevill, possibly to be recited during the wedding festivities.
I can make few guesses about the state of Thomas and Maud’s marriage. They had no children, and the birthplaces of children can be a very useful guide as to how much time a couple spent together. Where they lived, either together or separately, during their seven year marriage is pretty much a matter of guesswork. They started their married life at Middleham Castle and I suspect they stayed there for the last three months of 1453 and much, if not all, of 1454. Thomas was, at this time, up to his eyeballs in Percy and Maud was homeless.
Late in 1453, a ‘Lady Willoughby’ is listed amongst the guests attending Margaret of Anjou’s churching. Now, Maud used this title right up until she inherited the Cromwell title from her sister, but it could refer to her step-daughter, Joan Welles. They may both have been there, which might have been awkward had Maud not been surrounded by the dazzling display that was the Nevill women, which included the most dazzling of them all – the Countess of Warwick; and had there not been other, more pressing and more prominent examples of bad blood on display. In the interests of not bombarding the reader with too many minor characters, I have chosen to leave the step-daughter out of the picture altogether, except when Maud allows a stray thought about the bitch Joan to pass through her mind.
In February 1456, Jane Stanhope married Humphrey Bourchier, a nephew of the Duke of York. Thomas and Maud may well have attended the wedding, which was probably, like Maud’s, celebrated at Tattershall. The next time they were there was later in the year when they, along with Jane and her husband, attended Cromwell’s funeral.
Of Cromwell’s funeral, and the revelation of the terms of his will, Friedrichs has this to say: “The Nevilles may or may not have had detailed information about the extent of Cromwell’s wealth, but they certainly had the evidence of their eyes: well over a hundred manors and buildings in over a dozen counties, with a solid core in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, palatial manor houses, three of them newly built, costly furnishings and adornments, over a hundred horses in the stables, and a reputed annual expenditure of over £5,000. There was also the presumption that one of them would acquire the title of Lord Cromwell.”
Thomas was about to get his reward for rescuing Maud from financial embarrassment. One third of Cromwell’s wealth, shared between the two sisters and their husbands, would have represented a great deal. Given that Lady Cromwell predeceased her husband, that should have risen to two thirds. Cromwell, however, had changed his will. Maud and Jane were to get property to the value of 500 marks per annum each – a tiny fraction of what they were expecting. Their husbands tried everything they could to change this state of affairs, from attempting to negotiate with the executors to seizing goods and property by force. Thomas must have been bitterly disappointed and I can only think that Maud must have felt deeply let down by her uncle. But a will is a will and there was nothing to be done. Thomas Nevill was certainly better off than he might otherwise have been, but that wouldn’t have been much consolation. No decision at that time seems to have been made regarding the Cromwell title.
The sisters did get the plum property – Tattershall was theirs to share, though not its contents. Until Jane’s death in 1481 it doesn’t seem to have been Maud’s principle place of residence. Where she and Thomas lived, I don’t know, but I was most gratified to find that my carefully worked out premise that they lived in a Cromwell manor at Bleasby in Nottinghamshire has turned out to be at least plausible – it was one of the manors Maud was forced to turn over to Anthony Wydeville in 1465 (see below). I’ve put them there because it’s nice and central – not too far from Tuxford (which Maud also inherited), Tattershall and Nottingham. Maud’s third husband styled himself ‘of Eresby’, and Eresby was where Maud’s once lost dower property was. Though I haven’t found any record of how and when she got this back, it does seem that she did and that was where she lived while married to Gervase Clyfton.
Another thing I don’t know is what comprised her jointure and what property Thomas owned in his own right, so what she may have inherited from her second marriage is a mystery.
After John Nevill’s marriage to Isobel Ingoldisthorpe in May 1457, and Warwick’s departure for Calais, Thomas served as his brother’s lieutenant in the West March. This may have precipitated a move north, but again I don’t know that for certain. I’ve put them temporarily in Carlisle, for plot reasons more than anything else, but if they were there, it wasn’t for long.
In 1459, the Nevills and their ally, the Duke of York, were starting to feel the heat. York was, at the time, Henry VI’s chief councillor, but the King’s confidence in him wasn’t shared by his Queen. Three parties set off for York’s castle at Ludlow – Warwick coming from Calais and the Nevills from Middleham. On the way, the earl of Salisbury and his sons, Thomas and John, (and possibly in company with his countess) engaged the forces of Lords Audley and Dudley at Blore Heath. Salisbury won the day but lost his sons. Though the details are sketchy, it seems they were separated from the main Nevill force, either chasing the defeated enemy or held up due to an injury to one of them, and were captured. They spent the next year or so in Chester Castle. The rest of the Yorkists, including the countess of Salisbury, fled England, having been attainted for treason.
Where was Maud? I’ve not come across a suggestion that she shared her husband’s captivity. Like the other wives of the missing Yorkists, with the exception of the countess of Salisbury, she was specifically excluded from the charges against her husband. Though Thomas’s property was subject to forfeit, hers was not. It must have been a worrying time for everyone.
Thomas and John were released after the Yorkist victory at Northampton. He and Maud would have been reunited at some point. Maud was clearly not a diehard Yorkist, and she may have been uncomfortable with the actions of her husband’s family. She might even have shared the political views of her third husband and begun to distance herself from the Nevills. Thomas was killed the following year at the battle of Wakefield. Maud had been his wife for seven years. Their marriage had rescued her from financial distress and they had shared the disappointment of her curtailed inheritance and the struggle to win a larger share. However she felt about him, and whatever the state of their marriage, his death must have come as something of a blow. She didn’t, however, spend much time in mourning.
Just when and how Maud and Gervase Clyfton became reacquainted I don’t know. It would seem that she knew him from her days at court, when he was Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s treasurer. She may have had contact with him while he was treasurer of Calais, a post he held from 1450 to 1460. He was an odd choice for her for a number of reasons. Friedrichs says that their marriage “flew in the face of all prudence and common sense”. He was illegitimate, of considerably lower social status and, worst of all, a committed Lancastrian. From the point of view of Maud’s in-laws, he’d fought on the wrong side both at Wakefield and Towton. The Countess of Salisbury named him as one of the men responsible for the wrongful death of her husband. A marriage licence was granted them on 10 August 1461 by Archbishop Booth of York. The Nevills must have been outraged. Any hope she had of their ongoing support vanished. Maud was on her own.
According to Seaton, Richard Roos wrote a poem for Gervase, in celebration of his new wife. (As a frequent subject, or at least inhabitant, of Roos’s poetry, and as an old friend from her days at court, Maud became a caretaker for his work. It is thanks to her passing them on to her Stanhope cousins that many of them are still in existence.)
Gervase was some years older than Maud. He owned land in Kent, courtesy of his first wife, and served in the commons. So far, I’ve come across four sources that have different opinions on the number of children he had from his first marriage. An extremely useful RootsWeb discussion says that he was married first to Isabel Scott and they had a daughter, also Isabel, who married John Jernyngham. It also states that Isabel Scott had been married before, so this daughter may have in actuality been a step-daughter. The Peerage makes no mention of a first marriage or children. Friedrichs says he was a ‘childless widow’. Malcom Mercer’s The Strength of Lancastrian Loyalism, in The Journal of Medieval Military History, vol V, mentions a step-son, Sir John Scott, a close supporter of Edward IV. (Thanks again, Susan.)
Clyfton’s tenure as treasurer of Calais ended in 1460. Given his activities at the time, he was probably dismissed. There’s no mention of him in connection with Ludford, but he might have been one of the men who deserted York and Warwick. His tenure as treasurer could not have continued after that. He was succeeded by the Blounts, father (briefly) and son, Walter Lord Mountjoy,
It makes no sense to me that Gervase Clyfton was a stranger to Maud when they married, or even a recently renewed friend. Their paths must have crossed many times, given the Calais connection. He continued in his post when Warwick became Captain of Calais and, until 1460, there’s nothing to suggest any difficulties between the two men. Warwick certainly kept him on (or recommended to whoever it was in charge of such posts that he stay on, or at least not requested that he be replaced). Whatever the story, and whatever the relationship at the time between her and Gervase, Maud had a husband fighting on one side at Wakefield and at least an old friend on the other. Whatever grief she suffered at the news of Thomas’s death, it was shortlived. Some four months after the battle of Towton, she and Gervase were married.
Maud didn’t attend Thomas’s funeral at Bisham in 1462. Perhaps she was neither welcome nor invited.
She also, by her marriage to a man committed to the Lancastrian clause, forfeited her chance of gaining the Cromwell title. In 1461, it was Jane’s husband, Humphrey Bourchier, the new king’s cousin, who was summoned to parliament as Lord Cromwell. It seems odd to me that during their various periods of political ascendancy before that time, the Nevills didn’t manage to secure the title for Maud and Thomas. It was certainly one of the incentives for the marriage.
Maud and Gervase didn’t have a comfortable life. Gervase was specifically excluded from the pardons in March 1461 and there was no lasting reconciliation with the new king, Edward IV.
From the Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward IV:
And that whatsoever person holding the party of the said adversary [Henry VI], that within ten days after this proclamation would depart from them, shall have grace and pardon of his life and goods, except Andrew Trollopp, William Grymsby, Edward Digby, William Feldyng, Thomas Fitzharry, Ellis Cornewayll, Doctor Moreton, Gervase Clyfton, Thomas Tunstall, Henry Lowys knight, Thomas Parker of the Forthe, Thomas Everyngham, John Devet, both bastards of Exeter, Master Hugh Payn, Thomas Langton, Henry Beaumont, William Belyngham, Alexander Hody, Henry Tudnam – Clapham the younger…
He wasn’t included in the list of men the people of England were invited to “actually destroy and bring out of life”. That was limited to Trollop, the bastards of Exeter, and a handful of others. As I alluded to earlier, I haven’t seen him mentioned in connection with Trollop’s actions at Ludford – and that doesn’t mean he isn’t mentioned somewhere, just that I haven’t seen it. It seems likely that he was one of Warwick’s Calais men who slipped away, thus precipitating the flight. The ending of his tenure as treasurer of Calais in 1460, coupled with his exclusion from the pardon, make me think that might have been the case. Maud was walking a dangerous path. If she and Gervase weren’t already lovers in 1459/60, and it’s entirely feasible that they were, she was at least on friendly terms with a man seen by the new government – which included her late husband’s brothers – as a traitor. This was how he continued to be seen for the bulk of their marriage.
Clyfton continued to work for the restoration of Henry VI, taking the field against John Nevill at Hexham. In 1465, in order to secure him a pardon, Maud handed over 16 manors to the king’s new brother-in-law, Anthony Wydeville. From the Close Rolls of Edward IV, 1465:
Gervase Clyfton knight and Maud his wife, late the wife of Robert lord Willoughby, to Anthony Wydevyle lord Scales and lord of Newsels and his assigns. Gift with warranty during the life of the said Maud of the manors of Candlesby, Halom, Lamley, Snawdon, Boston, Bleeseby, Gyppesmere, Goureton, Drainsfeld, Baseford, Quynton, Rasyn, Lufton, Belcheford and Tusfford with Denynecourt’s rent etc, cos Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby and Warwick, and the manor of Tumby co Lincoln except a great wood called ‘Tumby wodes’ otherwise ‘Tumby chace’, all late of Ralph lord Cromwell or of another to his use at his death, with advowsons of churches, chapels and chantries thereto pertaining, and all other lands, rents, reversions and services there wherein the grantors or others to their use or to the use of the said Ralph had any estate or interest, and request that all feoffees shall make the said Anthony an estate thereof during the life of the said Maud, with the exception aforesaid. Dated 24 November, 5 Edward IV.
Gervase Clyfton knight to Anthony Wydevyle knight lord Scales and lord of Newcelles. Bond in 1,ooo/ payable on the feast of the Purification next. Dated (as the last).
Condition, that if the manors etc above mentioned, except a wood of Tumby called the ‘Chace’, which the said Gervase and Maud his wife have given during her life to the said Anthony and his assigns, be before the Purification next found by two auditors by the parties appointed not to amount to the yearly value of 400 marks over and above charges and reprises, the said Gervase and Maud shall within one month likewise give other manors and lands to the amount lacking, and meantime shall suffer the said Anthony and his assigns without let to take all issues and profits of those already granted.
Gervase Clyfton knight to the king. Bond in 5,000/ payable on Easter day next. Dated 20 November, 5 Edward IV.
Condition, that he and Maud his wife shall observe and fulfil all things contained in a charter of divers manors and lands by them made to the said Anthony, and in a bond by him given to the said Anthony, both dated 24 November, 5 Edward IV, and in keeping of John earl of Worcester by assent of the said Gervase and Maud.
Memorandum of the acknowledgement of the foregoing writings by the said Gervase, 9 December.
These grants to Anthony Wydeville represented 80% of Maud’s wealth and property – an enormous price to pay for marrying a man of ‘inconvenient political loyalties’ (Friedrichs, Rich Old Ladies Made Poor, 221).
In 1468, Gervase was rumoured to be plotting on behalf of Henry VI. During the Readeption government, with Humphrey Bourchier in prison (as diehard a Yorkist as Clyfton was a Lancastrian), Maud and Gervase were mistress and master of Tattershall. Maud’s at-a-distance reconciliation with the Nevill brothers must have felt a little strange. She’d been abandoned by them after her third marriage, and now her husband was a firm part of Warwick’s government – though quite what part I’ve yet to find out. Maud may have made her sister feel as unwelcome in their shared property as she no doubt did when it was a focus of Yorkist activity during the years leading up to the restoration of Henry VI.
Records of Warwick’s brief Readeption government are scarce, as is correspondence to and from Warwick. Maud would seem to have been a forceful personality and I wonder if she wrote to her once brother-in-law asking for his help to restore the properties previously granted to Lord Rivers, then in exile with Edward IV (and others) in Burgundy. Warwick had a good deal of fence mending to do, and if any steps were taken in this regard it would be for Clyfton’s sake, not Maud’s. As she didn’t give up trying to secure a fairer share of her uncle’s estate until almost the end of her life, it is entirely within the bounds of possibility that she made overtures to Warwick in order to restore her previously relinquished lands.
Humphrey Bourchier died fighting for his cousin, Edward IV, at Barnet. Gervase Clyfton was executed after the battle of Tewkesbury. Maud was a widow for the third time, and in the most dire financial straits.
Maud remained a widow for the rest of her life. With no money to recommend her, and at 47 no longer in the first bloom of youth, she wasn’t much of a catch. With three husbands dead, two by violence, and nothing to show for any of her marriages except the memories of a better life, she may well have felt it better not to tempt fate for a fourth time. She should have been looking forward to a more than comfortable old age. In 1472, she had to borrow money to hold Christmas. The following year, she sold (or lost in default of the loan) two of her remaining manors. But that wasn’t to be the end of her troubles. It was now William Lord Hastings’ turn to take from her what little she had left. Hastings was married to Thomas Nevill’s sister, Katheryn. But once again, no residual family feeling remained, and Hastings got what he wanted, not only from Maud but from her now remarried sister, Jane.
In 1476, a deal was made with bishop Wainflete (who’d been involved in the Cromwell inheritance from the start) over Tattershall Castle. I’m still trying to make sense of this. Wainflete wanted the Cromwell lands “for his college, but he was prepared to make what he considered appropriate provisions for the two ladies [Maud and Jane], rather than leave them utterly impoverished, a prospect that did not evidently trouble Lord Rivers or Lord Hastings” (Friedrichs, 224). In any event, the sisters were to hold Tattershall for the bishop. They may have had difficulty with its upkeep, for in 1476 Maud was trying to get the money together to build herself a house on the grounds.
In 1487, Margaret Beaufort got her hands on Tattershall. Maud, now living in her house on the castle grounds, “asserted herself one last time by issuing ordinances for observations at Tattershall College, indicating that she was still the patron of the college and the heiress of the founder. But in fact it was Lady Margaret who now held Tattershall and the real patronage of the college, although she was courteous about Lady Willoughby’s status as co-founder. Perhaps she was courteous about her daily life as well; we do not know, for Lady Willoughby, of course, had scarcely any property left to leave records, and her last ten years are silent. We can safely assume that Margaret Beaufort made sure she was indeed “honourably brought to earth” when she died on 30 August 1497, with no funeral image but with an inscription at the foot of her uncle’s prominent gravestone” (Friedrichs, 226-7). In this inscription, Maud is named as Lady Willoughby, through her first husband, and Lady Cromwell, through her uncle.
The Wars of the Roses left many women widowed by violence. Some, like Maud after the death of Thomas, picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got on with the next phase of their lives with new husbands. Others, like Maud after the death of Gervase, chose to remain widows (or had the choice made for them) and did the best they could with what little they had. The more I read about Maud, the more interesting a person she becomes. A woman, one suspects, of great dignity and strong personality, she faced each of life’s difficulties, fighting when she could, surrendering when she had no choice. She married twice for good and sensible reasons, and once for very personal ones. Though there’s no way of telling if her marriage to Thomas Nevill was a happy one, I can imagine them forming a strong partnership in the matter of her inheritance. I can picture them in a room at Tattershall, Jane and Humphrey Bourchier with them, leaping to their feet when Cromwell’s executors give them the bad news, demanding their rights and deciding to do whatever it took, by use of force if necessary, to secure what belonged to them. I can also see her with Gervase, faced with an impossible choice – lose the bulk of her property and wealth or lose the man she loved.
At the time of her death, Maud had secured the Cromwell title. Sadly, from her three marriages she had no children to pass this to. What was left of her inheritance, and her sister’s, passed to distant cousins. I wonder sometimes what the children of Thomas and Maud would have been like – I suspect they would have been a force to be reckoned with. Certainly a Nevill son would have been a useful addition to Maud’s arsenal in her fight to retain something of her uncle’s wealth.
I refuse to see Maud as sad and defeated, though she must have been close to both at times. She occupies the same place in my heart as her sisters-in-law, Katheryn lady Hastings and Margaret countess of Oxford. All three were tied by marriage to politically active men who led their wives to the heights of power and prestige and into the depths of poverty and ignominy. Only one of them predecased her husband. Katheryn buried two and Maud three. Capturing her spirit and personality isn’t an easy task, but I feel I owe it to her to try.